August 13, 2008
Alice Medrich’s best cocoa brownies
I recently had one of my fundamental beliefs shaken to its core. The sun rises in the east, puppies are cute, and home-made is better than a mix. After attending yet another Dove Chocolate at Home party, I ordered and baked a brownie mix. Planets tilted and crashed, up was down, bad was good. I had just eaten the best brownies ever – out of a box. Chewy, dense (but not overly so), rich with a wonderful crust – how can this be?
My son had been asking for brownies ever since I made some on our vacation a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, it was from a red box purchased at the over-priced beach town grocery store. I am probably the only person who actually even attempted to use the oven while renting a house at the beach. Needless to say, I did not attempt to bake from scratch while on vacation. My Martha Stewartness has its limits.) Fortuitously, my friend delivered my Dove at Home brownie mix the day I returned.
I was now on a mission: to recreate these delicious brownies on my own. I made this recipe I found on Epicurious, with just a few modifications. I actually made them twice since the brownies would not pour into the pan and was certain I was making it wrong. I’m not sure what I did, but the mixture was just too thick to pour – I had to pat it into the pan, thereby precluding that smooth, shiny light crust that you see in picture-perfect brownies.
The verdict? These brownies are rich, chewy and has a wonderful crispy crust (just no gleaming smooth top). They are still not the same as the Dove brownies – those rose higher and dare I say, tasted slightly better. I’ll keep trying.
In case you’re wondering why I just don’t buy more of the mix, it cost $18. Yeah.
Cocoa Brownies (adapted from Alice Medrich)
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 C. sugar
3/4 C. plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
2/3 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. chocolate chips (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter 13″ square pan. Combine the butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted, then add the sugar, cocoa, and salt and mix until smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.